A book and its prequel (Part 1): A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
Why I picked it: After a misstart in 2012, I began slogging through Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series last spring at the same time I binged all four available seasons of Game of Thrones.
Sidebar: Yes, I was very late to the party on both counts.
I wrapped up the third book, A Storm of Swords, right around Christmas last year, and decided to embark on book four almost immediately afterwards instead of giving myself of break (SoS was THAT good).
Blurb in brief: “After centuries of bitter strife, the seven powers dividing the land have beaten one another into an uneasy truce. But it’s not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters of the Seven Kingdoms gather. Now, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed while surprising faces—some familiar, others only just appearing—emerge from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges of the terrible times ahead. Nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages, are coming together to stake their fortunes…and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests—but only a few are the survivors.”
What I thought: This book took me three months to get through. THREE MONTHS. I am a fast reader. Despite Storm of Sword‘s length, I managed to finish it in two and a half weeks; I could hardly put it down.I had heard from many Feast for Crows was the least enjoyable book of the series, so perhaps my struggle to plow through TEN chapters of Book!Cersei’s poorly-thought out plotting.
Sidebar: All credit to Lena Hedley for her nuanced portrayal of Cersei on the show. She may still be a bitch, but she’s a bitch with whom I can sympathize at least.
I’ve read that GRRM intended to include a time jump between the action in ASoS and when AFfC was due to pickup, but realized that while that gap would work well for characters like Ayra and Bran, it would be less useful for other important characters like Jon Snow and those in King’s Landing because the readers couldn’t be expected to believe that nothing happened in that interim (and writing that many flashbacks was unproductive).
Then of course, he decided to break up his monster manuscript geographically instead of chronologically, which is an interesting choice, but resulted in my being separated from most of my favorite characters who found themselves outside of Westeros proper at the end of book three.
Sidebar: Tyrion! Oh, how I missed Tyrion.
So what we got was filler. A LOT of filler. Most of which I couldn’t be bothered to care much about. The Greyjoy succession plot? Meh. Pretty much everything that happens in Dorne? Bleh. I think part of the problem is that none of the POV characters in this book is particularly witty. A Song of Ice and Fire is a dense story, with a lot of violence and gore, which is why I think characters like Tyrion, Bronn, and the Queen of Thorns are fan favorites (anyone else adore Lady Olenna? She’s basically a hybrid of Lady Violet from Downton Abbey and nearly every character Judi Dench has played, which is to say: perfection)—you need a bit of sass (sometimes a LOT of sass) to balance out all of the depressing deaths and humorless characters.
GRRM’s world building does continue to be incredible. To not only create a whole mythology/history but also keep it straight in your heard when writing thousands upon thousands of pages—it boggles my mind.
So long story short: if you’re making your way through the whole of A Song of Ice and Fire, you’ve got to read this book. Perhaps you’ll find it less of a chore than I did (though if you get really annoyed you can try this reviewer’s method for cutting out the boring bits).
My ratings: 3/5; Goodreads ratings: 4.07/5